I will never forget the day The Cursed Child came out, particularly because the streets of my quiet little town became crowded with wizards of all ages for the Harry Potter party. Everyone had preordered their books and donned their Hogwarts robes in anticipation of the Cursed Child release, and all the stores in town decided to get in on the action by decorating, passing out stickers, and selling Butter Beer. I, on the other hand, had yet to order my copy and didn’t pick one up until a few weeks after the release. That’s not to say that I wasn’t excited. I was just busy. And after finally picking up The Cursed Child and reading it, I can say that I do not regret waiting because it was not worth the hype. Fun? Yes, I read it in two days and I definitely enjoyed it. But worthy to be called the eighth story, as it says so on the cover? Well, it’s accurate to say the least. But no, I do not count Cursed Child as the eighth installment of the Harry Potter series.
First off, the plot felt like it was pulled from a fan-fic site. Everyone has been speculating about whether or not all the Time-Turners were destroyed. Everyone has wanted the return of Cedric Diggory. Everyone wanted to believe that Bellatrix and Voldemort were having an affair, even though the movies were the only thing that implied that. Overall, the old characters felt like shadows of themselves, the new characters were not dynamic enough (excepting Scorpius, I’ll admit that I liked him), the ending was unsatisfying, and random bits of information were just inserted into the story (like the bit about the Trolley Lady, what were they thinking?). So yeah, Rowling endorsed fan-fiction at best.
Second, I was really looking forward to seeing what Cursed Child would do with its female characters, since we all wanted to be Hermione when we were little. I was sorely disappointed when the story centered around Albus and Scorpius, with guest appearances from Delphi, who turned out to be the villain in the end, and a lame one at that. I expected Rose to be the strong female until she turned out to be this arrogant child who wore her parent’s names too proudly. An older Hermione was pretty solid, until the writers saw fit to turn her into a nasty shrew in one reality where she was denied Ron’s all-redeeming love at a young age. Suffice to say, Cursed Child did not make great strides in feminist literature.
And finally, the format of the book. I personally, am a fan of reading plays. I know not everyone is, but there’s something satisfying in having everything necessary to the story be found in the dialogue and action, rather than pages of description or contemplation or whatever the author thought was important enough to write down but not have a character speak. But as someone who has read probably too many plays, I found some of the stage directions to be tedious and even demeaning. Maybe this is because I’m used to reading early modern plays which typically have very little stage directions beyond Enter, Exit, and Aside nor do they ever give acting notes. But the stage directions that said “This troubles Harry” or “He is hurt by this” frustrated me. Part of me thought that the writers were trying to assist readers who have never read a story in play format. But most of the time the dialogue was obviously meant to be read and reacted to a certain way and as an intelligent reader, I felt like I didn’t need to be coddled with redundant stage directions. I don’t think an author should ever underestimate their readers and I felt like I was being talked down to.
This isn’t to say there weren’t parts of Cursed Child that I enjoyed. As I said before, I really liked Scorpius, I liked that Snape got to make a reappearance, and I liked that Malfoy was able to find a little bit of redemption. It was good to reenter the Harry Potter universe and revisit some of my favorite characters. But overall, this book has not earned itself a true spot in the beloved HP series.